corporate bastards

Nike + iPod = stalker's dream

Wired reports on how "security flaws in the new RFID-powered [Nike+ iPod] from Nike and Apple make it easy for tech-savvy stalkers, thieves and corporations to track your movements."

While I'm not surprised that a product from a team-up of such notable corporate bastards has problems, the carelessness here - the system turns your running shoes into radios transmitting uncoded "here I am!" messages to range of about 60 feet - is notable.

why we must question authority, or surely destroy ourselves

This is the weirdest, most disturbing thing I've heard about in a while. It illustrates so well the dangers of the human impulse to submit to authority.

Friday, a jury awarded $6.1 million to Louise Ogborn, who said she was subject to a strip-search in a McDonald's back office after someone posing as a cop called the restaurant and accused her of theft.

Ogborn claimed McDonald's was negligent when they failed to warn her and other employees about this caller, who had already struck other fast-food joints. Yes, this wasn't an isolated case: there were over 70 such incidents.

Recycling excess copies of The Examiner

Sick and tired of picking up litter dumped on my lawn by The Examiner's carriers, I fired this off. I'm sending hardcopy in the mail tomorrow. Yes, I do intend to follow up and bill them if they keep dumping papers, and if they don't pay, I'll consider turning it over to a collection agency.

Feel free to copy the idea and make similar arrangements with these littering bastards.

Tom Swiss
2119 Arlonne Drive
Baltimore, MD 21228
410-455-5325
Fax: 443-927-9320
tms@infamous.net

Michael Barnum, Vice President, Circulation
Baltimore Newspaper Publishing Company, LLC
400 E. Pratt St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
mbarnum@baltimoreexaminer.com

Jun 27, 2007

Dear Mr. Barnum,

Since repeated telephone calls to the circulation office of The Examiner have failed to stop your carriers from littering my lawn and driveway with newspapers, I can only assume that you have great difficulty in disposing of your excess papers.

Rather than pressing criminal charges for littering against your company, I propose a profitable and ecologically helpful solution: I am willing to provide you with a recycling service for excess papers. My rate is $90 per pound of papers, one pound minimum for any day you choose to use my service.

Any copies of The Examiner left at or in front of my house (2119 Arlonne Drive, Catonsville MD, 21228) after July 4, 2007, will be taken as acceptance by Baltimore Newspaper Publishing Company, LLC, of these terms and as a request for the service described above. Bills for the service will be sent to you at this address.

If you choose not to make use of this service, then you merely need to stop littering my lawn and driveway with newspapers.

Very truly yours,

Tom Swiss

why developers.net sucks

Back in 2000, I put a profile up on developers.net, which at the time was largely a job board. Job leads were all I wanted out of them (and as I recall, didn't get any useful ones).

Somewhere along the line, they became a "resource" site, and started sending me weekly sales pitches for their sponsors' various products. It wasn't really spam, I suppose, but it was annoying. Only a bit though, so I tolerated it.

Until today. When I went to unsub, they wanted to collect more data from me to complete my profile, before letting me unsubscribe from their mailing list.

Um, no. When I'm telling you to stop bothering me, I'm not about to give you more information about myself so you can market to me better.

Somebody hand me the clue-by-four. Bam! Bam! Bam!

So now there's an entry in their database telling them I'm from Zimbabwe and work for a company called "Bite Me". I hope the marketing drones have fun with that.

"Don't give your right name, no, no, no." -- Fats Waller

Back in Balitmore: avoid United, witnessing drama

Back in Baltimore. I woke up this morning around 4am and for about a minute could not figure out where in the world I was. Kameoka? Osaka? Baltimore? New York? A very odd feeling. I had to turn on the light and look around before I could make what I saw match up with "home" in my head.

A few random travel observations:

  • Avoid flying United Airlines if possible. Up to now my experiences with them had been fairly positive, but they decided to change the rules on me after I bought a ticket, which is unacceptable. When I left Baltimore, the weight limit on checked bags was 70 pounds for flights to Japan. Ok, I was well under. I planed on that for returning; I realized I might be a little bit over that 70 pound limit on my suitcase, since I'd bought some heavy items, but seemed more sensible to pay a fee of about $25 for a slightly overweight bag, than to airmail another box home.

    But when I checked in for my return flight, I found that they had lowered the limit to 50 pounds - regardless of when the ticket was purchased. The best the woman behind the counter could suggest was to move some things to a third bag (fortunately I had an empty small backpack in my suitcase) and check that, bringing the suitcase under 70 pounds and so only a small fee for that, but a large fee for a third bag; the fee for a 70+ pound bag was now astronomical.

Mother Jones: John Kenneth Galbraith and the economics of the corporation

MotherJones.com features commentary by James K. Galbraith on his father John Kenneth Galbraith's book The New Industrial State, in which he considers the large company not just as a seeker after profits but as an organization:

Corporations exist to control markets, and often to replace them. Business leaders reduce uncertainty not through clairvoyance (or "perfect foresight," as the economics textbooks call it), nor by confident exploitation of probability ("portfolio diversification"). They do it by forming organizations large enough to forge the future for themselves. In politics these are countries and parties; in economics, big corporations.

state of the union

So just how are we doing on the land of the free these days? Let's see:

First, The Boston Globe reported on Bush the Second's assertions that he can ignore more than 750 laws, laws he himself signed, including military rules, affirmative-action law provisions, requirements to report to Congress about immigration services problems, nuclear regulatory whistle-blower protections, and laws against political interference in research.

The Globe notes that W is the first president in modern history to never veto a bill, thus making him immune from veto-overrides; instead, he signs them and then quietly files "signing statements" in the federal register, in which he lays out his "legal interpretation" of the bill. These often assert that the president has the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills -- including provisions negotiated with Congress in order to get the bills passed in the first place.

Copyright cops now have K9 division

I've been predicting for some time now that the RIAA and MPAA are dragging us toward a "War On Copying" similar to the "War on (Some) Drugs" we've been fighting with so much success the past few decades. Well, if the Wo(S)D uses drug-sniffing dogs, why not copy-sniffing dogs for the Woc? Yes, the MPAA is training police dogs to sniff out DVDs.

As part of a project promoted by the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA), FACT instigated the training of two black Labradors named Lucky and Flo by one of the world's leading experts in the field whose other clients include police, fire and rescue service. The dogs were trained over an eight month period to identify DVDs that may be located in boxes, envelopes or other packaging, as well as discs concealed amongst other goods which could be sold illegally in the UK. These DVDs are often smuggled by criminal networks involved in large scale piracy operations from around the world.

Never mind, of course, that DVDs can contain other sorts of data beside copied movies...

Contemplating nuclear power

Discussion over at Slashdot about nuclear power, touched off by this piece in the Washington Post. (See also this response the Daily Kos: "Patrick Moore is a paid consultant for the mining, logging, biotech and energy industries, and putting him out as "ex-Greenpeace" is a lot like calling Scooter Libby an "ex-Hill staffer.")

Some excerpts from my posts on the topic:


Is fission less dangerous to the environment than coal? Perhaps. If it were a choice between only between building more coal plants and building fission ones, it's possible that fission might win out. (Though I think it would have to depend of the specifics of the technologies and implementations involved.)

But that's the wrong question.

At best, fission is still a stop-gap: supplies of fissionables are limited, on the order of a century or two at most, perhaps much less. So is it not more reasonable to divert resources to solving the problem right - with fusion reseach, renewables (i.e., using that big fusion reactor in the sky, including ideas like orbital photovoltaics) and better energy efficiency - than to build fission reactors and [push] the problem onto our great-grandchildren? (Or rather, for us non-breeders, our friends' great-grandchildren?)

[The Moore editorial] mentions the Iran situation only to gloss over it, but there are massive security concerns with fission technology.

Also [the Moore editorial] is inaccurate in talking about nuclear waste; the problem is not the U and Pu in spent fuel, which can be processed and reused, but thorium, radium, radon, and radioactive lead isotopes.

Is some of the opposition to fission irrational? Yes. But so is some of its support, based on an almost romantic notion of "man harnassing the mighty power of the atom!"

Anti-supplement spin, but glucosamine and chondroitin better than Celebrex for arthritis pain

Even more interesting than the results of this study on glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis pain is the spin on the reporting. Here are the numbers:

Sixty percent who took the dummy medication had reduced pain compared with 64 percent who took glucosamine, 65 percent who took chondroitin and 67 percent who took the combo pills...

The drug Celebrex did reduce pain - 70 percent reported improvement - affirming the study's validity...

Of the 354 people with moderate to severe pain, 79 percent who took both supplements reported relief compared with 54 percent who took the dummy pills and 69 percent who took Celebrex.

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